National Team - Lions ● Mar 22, 2018

Preview: Singapore vs Maldives


Singapore National Team Head Coach V. Sundram Moorthy and captain Hariss Harun with Maldives Head Coach Petar Segrt and defender Akram Abdul Ghanee.


SINGAPORE, 21 MARCH 2018  The Lions play their first international of the year tomorrow night (23 March) against Maldives at the Singapore Sports Hub, with kick-off at 7.30pm. We preview the match, where Singapore will seek to make it six wins in a row against the same opponents…


Background All eyes will be on V. Sundram Moorthy as the Singapore National Team Head Coach targets a winning start to 2018 at the National Stadium.


Much has been made of the Lions’ failure to win any of their 11 international matches last year, but the team has looked in good spirits so far in training and will be confident of ending the win-less streak.


“I hope to turn the corner and get the win – that’s important for us (in terms of) confidence,” Sundram said at the pre-match press conference today afternoon at M Hotel. “I believe in my boys and in training they were very good and I hope it (the form) will be transferred to the match tomorrow.”


Sundram will be up against Petar Segrt, who was unveiled as Maldives’ new Head Coach last Wednesday on a two-year contract. Born in the former Yugoslavia, the 51-year-old has been with the team for only 11 days. In a coaching career that started in 1983, the former defender has spent time in Germany, Austria, Indonesia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.


He has also coached the Georgia and Afghanistan national teams – he left the latter for this new role – and called on his side to be “serious” tomorrow.


“It’s my first game but believe me, we will try to make it very hard for Singapore to win this game tomorrow,” he said.


Team News Arguably the biggest talking point has been a first-ever call-up for Ben Davis, the Fulham FC Under-18 youngster who signed with the Championship side last July, in Sundram’s squad announcement last week. Adam Swandi is set to be included in the team as well despite featuring for the Singapore Under-23s on Wednesday night, though Hougang United FC forward Iqbal Hussain is likely to miss out due to injury.


“We’ve got balance actually, we’ve brought in Ben Davis, we’ve got Adam, Ikhsan (Fandi) and Irfan (Fandi), who are learning the trade, they are pretty young,” Sundram said of his selection. “For experience, we added Baihakki (Khaizan), so moving forward we should get youngsters to learn from senior players, so that over the years they will slot in well and represent Singapore in future.”


The Maldivians arrived with a party of 22, with captain Ali Ashfaq the most notable exclusion having not travelled due to injury. Ten uncapped players have been included and there are also 10 below the age of 23. Experienced campaigners like Shafiu Ahmed and Mohamed Arif have not been called up, though veterans like Akram Abdul Ghanee and Ashad Ali are around to provide guidance.


“The Federation of Maldives brought me in because they want to make changes…with young players,” Segrt said. “I think it’s important for these young players to get the feeling of being a national player.”


Maldives’ form The Red Snappers were hammered 8-1 away in an 2019 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup qualifier in their last game in November, which came on the back of two consecutive defeats to Oman. They beat Bhutan 2-0 last June – their sole victory in six matches in 2017. Still, they are ranked 150th in the FIFA world rankings, 21 rungs above Singapore.


Past meetings Singapore have beaten Maldives in all five meetings going back to 1996 – may that streak continue on Friday night. Segrt does know how it feels to beat the Lions – he led Afghanistan to a 2-1 win in Tehran in 2016 in a 2018 FIFA World Cup/2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifier.


29 Jun 1996: Singapore 2-0 Maldives (AFC Asian Cup)
7 Jul 1996: Singapore 5-2 Maldives (AFC Asian Cup)
09 Apr 2002: Singapore 2-0 Maldives (Friendly)
04 Mar 2003: Singapore 4-1 Maldives (Friendly)
07 Jun 2011: Singapore 4-0 Maldives (Friendly)


Keep an eye out for… Ben Davis will become the third-youngest ever men’s debutant for the Singaporean National Team if he gets onto the pitch, behind current captain Hariss Harun and Adam Swandi. The only other potential debutant is Geylang International FC defender Anders Aplin.


Centre-back Baihakki Khaizan will also earn a landmark 130th cap if he plays – as it is, the 34-year-old is the third-most capped Lion behind Daniel Bennett (142) and Shahril Ishak (134).


What else they said Sundram on a win-less 2017: “We always choose tough opponents so that our players can compete with them to see where we stand. We’ve played against Lebanon and Qatar in friendlies, they are ranked much, much higher than us (but) we competed well and the results were very tight.”


Sundram not taking Maldives lightly: “Honestly there’s no easy opponent anymore… past results count for nothing and it’s the 90 minutes tomorrow on the pitch that counts.”


Captain Hariss Harun on staying positive: “I think it’s important that we stick together. Last year was not easy for us…it can be a bit demoralising but we have to put that behind us. We have a couple of new, young players in the team, it’s now about getting to know each other and gel together… we have to be confident going into the game.”


Follow the game The match will be streamed live on FAS’ mycujoo platform.